What to expect when getting a COVID-19 vaccine

Monday, March 29, 2021

Woman in face mask showing thumbs up gesture during coronavirus vaccine injection at clinic.

This article has been reviewed by our chief medical consultant Dr. Charles Schutz. Source data for this article were gathered from the CDC and FDA.

Here’s what you can expect when it’s your turn to be vaccinated.

Eligibility and Appointments 

The first step of the process is to determine whether you are eligible to receive a vaccine. Eligibility is determined by a number of factors, primarily your occupation, age, location, and medical history. You can check with your city, county, or state health departments to confirm your eligibility.

Due to the limited supply of vaccines currently available in some areas, it may be difficult to find available appointments. Please be patient as the vaccine supply is expected to increase over the next couple of months. The White House now projects the country will have enough vaccines available for every adult by the end of May, two months quicker than previously anticipated.

Here are some available resources for scheduling a vaccine:

  • Your health care providers – primary care offices, health clinics, or hospitals where you’ve received care.
  • Your pharmacy – local pharmacies including CVS, Walgreens, and others.
  • Zocdoc – an online tool to look up and schedule appointments with select providers.

Remember that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots, so make sure you book your second dose typically at the time of your first shot. If you’re receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, only one dose is needed. You should take whatever vaccine is offered at the site where you are scheduled.

Receiving Your Vaccination

On the day of your appointment, you will receive the injection in the upper portion of one of your arms. The CDC has recommended providers monitor everyone who receives a COVID-19 vaccine for at least 15 minutes, and at least 30 minutes for people with a history of significant allergic reactions to foods, medications, and/or vaccinations.

You can also sign up with v-safe, a free app that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a vaccine.

The health care provider will give you a paper or electronic version of a fact sheet with specific information about the COVID-19 vaccine you’re receiving as well as a vaccination card or printout with your personalized vaccination information. Make sure to keep your vaccination records in case they may be needed for future purposes, including proof of vaccination.

After Your Vaccination

It will take time for your body to build immunity protection after receiving the vaccine. You are not considered to be fully vaccinated until at least two weeks have passed since you received your final dose.

Once you’re fully vaccinated, you may think that you no longer can catch or transmit the coronavirus. However, public health experts agree that more data and studies are needed to determine if the vaccines reliably reduce transmission. Remember, just because you may have built up a strong immune response does not mean those around you have been vaccinated as well.

In the meantime, it is recommended you continue to follow social distancing guidelines and mask mandates even after being fully vaccinated. In doing so, we can be sure that we are doing our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.

For guidance about your individual health concerns related to the COVID-19 vaccines, please reach out to your primary care physician.


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